Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards apologized for the tone of Dr. Deborah Nucatola’s recorded statements and emphasized that the organization does not sell fetal tissue.
WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood responded to the furor over an undercover video alleging the sale of fetal parts with an explanatory video of its own Thursday, and an apology.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as the group that provides health services — including abortions — is formally known, explained in a video the group’s fetal-tissue donations and apologized for an employee videotaped by an anti-abortion group.
“Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortion used secretly recorded, heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research,” said Richards.
“I want to be really clear: The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true,” she said. “Our donation programs — like any other high-quality health-care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines.”
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In the undercover video taken a year ago by a little-known group, the Center for Medical Progress, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of Medical Services, is seen discussing harvesting body parts to keep them intact. She also talks about pricing, although there is no indication that she or the organization is trying to profit from the fetal tissue. Officials said the costs involved transportation and delivery.
But it was Nucatola’s offhand manner over the secretly taped lunch that disturbed many people, including members of Congress and others who are demanding investigations. Nucatola described conducting abortions in such a way to preserve body parts, such as the liver or the heart, that were on an order list.
Richards, the daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, sought to defuse the incendiary reaction. “Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” she said. “In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”
According to Planned Parenthood officials, Nucatola has been reprimanded.
House and Senate panels already are investigating the statements in the video. And the governors of Georgia and Indiana and Ohio’s attorney general on Thursday ordered investigations of Planned Parenthood facilities in their states to determine if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold.
A prominent academic in the field of bioethics said the attention on fetal tissue is misplaced. “The science of fetal tissue research moved into embryonic and adult stem-cell research,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone Medical Center. “This huge interest in fetal-tissue research ended 20 years ago.”
Even though the amount of research done on fetal tissue is tiny, Caplan, too, was disturbed by the “cavalier” attitude shown by Nucatola in the undercover video. In addition, the description of changing the abortion procedure to better harvest body parts is problematic, he said. “I think that’s very disturbing,” said Caplan. “It’s an ethical problem.”